Cities Performance Leaves Way Too Much Data Off The Table

If we can’t manage what we don’t measure, then crucial gaps in the indicators proposed for the federal government’s National Cities Performance Framework plunge its effectiveness into doubt as a tool for improving the resilience and sustainability of our cities and the people that live and work in them.

The Interim report, released this week, outlines the framework and data-driven indicators that will be made available as a digital dashboard for the public and others to assess cities across economic, social and environmental aspects.

Photo: article supplied

It aims to show how well cities are performing against the Smart City policy priorities of jobs and skills; infrastructure and investment; liveability and sustainability; innovation and digital; governance, planning and regulation; and housing.

These have been converted into 41 proposed indicators that will be being applied to 21 of Australia’s largest cities and also Western Sydney.

Gaps in the architecture

However, even the Property Council of Australia, which has hailed it as “vital policy architecture” has noted that there are some gaps in the data it proposed to deliver.

A proposed indicator that would reveal the ratio of population growth to dwellings constructed has not been included “due to lack of data”.

“We believe there is one area of potential improvement for the Interim Framework and that relates to housing affordability and the ability to properly assess housing supply,” Ken Morrison PCA chief executive said.

“The big gap is the lack of data on housing supply which is a critical part of the housing affordability equation, and we again call on the Turnbull Government to reinstate the National Housing Supply Council to plug this gap.”

Ironically, news broke this week that 2016 Census data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows there are around one million empty dwellings in Australia, and that in Sydney close to one in five dwellings are empty. Sounds like available data to us.

And here’s another one – while the data will include air quality in terms of particulates in the air, and overall carbon emissions, a proposed indicator on carbon emissions from specific sectors was also left out due to… lack of available data.

The Fifth Estate is seeing something of a pattern there that looks scarily like the Trump approach. Don’t measure it, don’t monitor it and then you can wilfully refuse to manage it.

Mr Morrison said that the framework brings “some rigour” to the question of whether our “big and small cities are successful or not”.

“What gets measured gets done – and this framework will assist policy makers in our big cities as well as our smaller cities and regional centres.”

Policy makers it may not assist terribly well are those concerned about vulnerability to natural disasters.

This article was originally published by The Fifth Estate.

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Shaping Australian Cities: Driving Global Competitiveness Through Strategy and Design

The 10th International Urban Design Conference will be held at Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa, Gold Coast, Queensland from Monday 13 – Tuesday 14 November 2017. 

Australian cities
James Tuma

James Tuma, National Director – Design, will be joining us this year to discuss “Shaping Australian cities: Driving global competitiveness through strategy and design”.

What makes a city globally competitive? Where do Australian cities sit in the global context? How should we shape them?

Cities are human kind’s greatest achievement and challenge. Predictions indicate that by 2050 well over half of the world’s 5 billion people will live in cities. Investment in cities and real estate worldwide is estimated to more than double from 2012 to 2020. Cumulatively, cities globally represent the greatest opportunity to enact and effect change at a planetary scale.

This body of work considers the emerging language and strengths of cities and identifies ten strategic opportunities for Australian cities to address when it comes to their design and place in the world. This guidance is by no means exhaustive or definitive, however it aims to provide the foundation stones of creating a compelling national conversation about our shared urban future.

 This 10th International Urban Design Conference is an opportunity for design professionals to exchange ideas and experiences, to be creative and visionary, and to contribute to redesigning our urban futures.

Secure your spot for this year here.

What makes a city great?

The world is preoccupied with rating the city. From the towering skyscrapers of New York to Tokyo’s colourful neon and Melbourne’s amiable public spaces, it seems there’s a way to grade every aspect of the modern metropolis.

Economists, sociologists and even politicians pick apart our cities, presumably ranking them so we might best select a place to live. What is unquestionable however, and it was the focus of BlueNotes’ MetropolisNow series, is human life is becoming inexorably more urbanised.

Sydney, despite its shortcomings of urban sprawl and increasingly insufficient infrastructure, typically features on these lists. Indeed, such global status seems to matter to a rising global star like Sydney, even if the varied experiences within a city can be far less glamorous.

Of course, rankings differ based on the parameters. Some define great cities by their economic output or the number of job opportunities they create, while others are more concerned with culture or quality of life.

Consider Singapore which routinely scores well for its economy. It generates $US51,149 in economic output per person which makes it one of the richest and most developed nations in the world, according to the Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI) at the University of Toronto.

With the rapid rise of its creative middle class, it follows Singapore must be a great a place to do business.

Meanwhile, consultancy Mercer ranks Vienna, Zurich and Auckland as the three most ‘livable’ cities in the world, based on factors such as their political and social environments, economics, housing, transportation and the natural environment.

These cities apparently offer an array of enticements for prospective newcomers, which is the basis of the study’s undertaking.

Further still, the United Nations defines a ‘prosperous’ city as one that’s productive, provides adequate infrastructure, has a good quality of life, offers equity and social inclusion, and is practicing environmental sustainability.

The tally of these factors is called the city prosperity index and scores each city out of 100, with Hong Kong notching 57, for example, against Jakarta’s 51 and Sydney’s 66. (Notably, Auckland scored just 35).

But does all of this equate to greatness in a city?

Originally Published by ANZ Blue Notes, continue reading here.

Is the Open Plan Bad for Us?

eBay Workplace Initiative by Valerio Dewalt Train Associates. Image Courtesy of Valerio Dewalt Train Associates

The concept of the revolutionized architecture  – promising light, space, and effortless collaboration (not to mention a more cost-effective way of getting lots of people into one space). Today, it’s practically become a standard of design – but at what cost?

A new report from researchers Jungsoo Kim and Richard de Dear, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, concludes that the open plan comes with some serious collateral damage – namely a lack of “sound privacy” – which outweighs its positive qualities. What’s more, according to their results, the open plan doesn’t even make a measurable improvement in communication at all.

Courtesy of

The Guardian reports: “‘Our results,’ the researchers conclude, ‘categorically contradict the industry-accepted wisdom that open-plan layout enhances communication between colleagues and improves occupants’ overall work environmental satisfaction’. Even to the extent that easier communication did make open-plan offices a little less bad, for some, than they might otherwise have been, this ‘failed to offset the decrements by negative impacts of noise and privacy.’”

The study seems to align with another recent report released by Gensler, which found that “in opposition to the trend of workplaces being designed to encourage collaboration, workers are actually spending more time on focused, individual tasks than they were 5 years ago. Consequently, over 50% of respondents said that they were distracted by others when they needed to focus. What’s more, the survey found that when employees could not focus individually, collaborative work was also less productive.”

However, the Kim and de Dear study did not measure the affect of “hybrid” spaces, which offer workers the option of both public and private spaces; the Gensler study, on the other hand, suggested that “the best way to design a successful workplace was to provide the right balance between spaces which allow employees to focus, and spaces which allow them to collaborate with others – most importantly making sure that these spaces do not interfere with each other.”

So, perhaps, as with all good things, the open plan – in moderation – isn’t bad for us after all. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Story via The Guardian

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. “Is the Open Plan Bad for Us?” 25 Nov 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 4th December 2013. <;